Silver maple is a tree of popular choice for avid landscapers. Indigenous to North America, this deciduous tree exhibits interesting fall color. The underside of the silver maple tree is silvery white in color, hence the common name 'silver maple' is assigned. Even when the slightest breeze comes, the silvery coloration of the leaf underside is displayed, giving an eye-catching view to the yard. It attains a maximum height of about 80 feet with the trunk measuring approximately 3 feet.
In the natural habitat, the silver maple is found growing in moist areas and along rivers and streams. With reference to its basic characteristics, it is known by varied names - silverleaf maple, creek maple, river maple, water maple, soft maple and white maple. For a young tree, the bark is smooth and light brown in color. As the tree reaches maturity, it changes to gray color and develops prominent scales.
As with other types of maple, the taxonomic family and order of silver maple are Sapindaceae and Sapindales respectively. It is classified under the genus Acer, which comprises about 120 species. Silver maple is represented by the botanical name, Acer saccharinum. People tend to confuse it with A. saccharinum, which is the scientific name for sugar maple. The fall color of silver maple is less striking than that of the sugar maple tree.
The silver maple tree leaf remains green in the active growth season. It has five lobes, and averages about 3 - 5 inch in width. The leaf margin is double toothed, and surface is glabrous. Flowers are exceptionally small, red colored and inconspicuous, while the fruits are brown and relatively large in size. In fact, seeds of this maple species are largest of all maples. Come fall season, and its leaves turn yellow and orange.
The fast growth rate of silver maple is an amazing character for use in landscaping. Within the first 20 years of growth, this variety reaches a height of approximately 45 feet, which is definitely very high as compared to other deciduous trees. Impressive for its rapid growth, this maple tree is used for vegetative rehabilitation in highly deforested areas and heavy mining sites.
This maple cultivar is suited for growing in USDA hardiness zones 3 - 9. It can be propagated from roots, stem cuttings and viable seeds. For ensuring optimal growth, it requires full sunlight, moist, fertile and well-drained soil. However, this maple does tolerate partial shade and any type of growing soil. The major concerns for use of silver maple tree in landscaping are, soft wood that is prone to breakage and intrusive roots.
As far as care level for silver maple is concerned, it is less tolerant to drought spells and extreme cold conditions. Otherwise, this maple variety grows well in slightly acidic soil (pH 6.1 - 6.5) to near neutral soil (pH 6.6 - 7.5). Silver maple requires moderate water, so water it at regular intervals. Heavy blooms are exhibited in early spring, and summer is marked by development of fruits and seeds.
Soft wood of silver maple makes it vulnerable to various kinds of wood rotting fungal species. The commonly observed diseases are verticillium wilt, leaf spot, anthracnose, tar spots and canker diseases. It is also included in the host list of destructive cottony maple scale. Correct pruning and removing weak branches are required in order to minimize the risk of disease and pest problems.
The silver maple tree grows well in highly traffic areas of urban settings. Major advantages for growing this maple cultivar in urban regions are easy transplantation and quick establishment. Active growth of silver maple tree is observed during spring and summer months. The flower buds are consumed by squirrels, while the exceptionally large seeds serve as food sources for birds and many other animals.